Last year I attended The Great Planes Trading Company
antique tool auction in St. Peterís, Missouri and came away with
less money but with an early brace that has some interesting
It probably dates sometime in the
span of time shortly after The American Revolution to circa 1820
and was made by a skilled craftsman with a bent for subtle
design details that added a bit of aesthetics to a tool.
In this post I will explain with
photos its anatomy in case any of you wish to replicate it. I
view this brace as a precursor of what was to come in England
and America in the decades that followed.
First, the slender wrist on the
crank has the lines of a typical Sheffield brace starting in the
1850s. Second, instead of the brace having a series of bit pads
each bearing its own bit, this brace has a single pad with an
iron chuck on it that will hold a variety of typical tapered
square-tanged bits such as center, nose, and quill bits as well
as countersinks, scallops, and the like. And, third, it has a
spring in the chuck that is much like the push button chucks
made a bit later in Sheffield.
This photo shows the brace straight from the
The wood was extremely dry and
needed to be fed in order to preserve a wonderful patina on it.
The brace is 14 5/8ths inches long without the pad in the chuck.
The head is 3 1/2 inches long and so is the chuck. The pad tang
is 5/8ths inch in diameter. The pad, including the iron chuck,
is 5 3/4ths inches long. This brace has 3-inch throw.
This is the brace with the wooden pad removed.
Note the saw marks on the pad tang.
The iron chuck that holds bits is firmly affixed to the wooden
pad. The thumb screw that tightened on bit tangs was missing.
Sorting through my parts and pieces I found a
thumb screw of appropriate age.
It had the correct thread count, 28
threads per inch, but was slightly too large to fit the hole in
the chuck. Using a tap I cleaned the rust out of the threads in
the chuck. And, using a period threading die I repeatedly cut
threads on the thumbscrew until it was the correct size and
screwed in perfectly. I selected a short period English nose bit
to put in the chuck to make sure the thumb screw would retain
such bits in the chuck.
This is the brace with the wood fed with
beeswax and various oils,
a solution I concoct.